A mostly sedate “building demolitions” puzzler in design, its cerebral cousin would be Tetris. The concept is all about removing buildings in a uniform, vertical and controlled manner to end up with large amounts of empty space, without causing damage to the surrounding areas. Explosives need to be placed at key structural points in order demolish them, with strategy coming from the different tools (and their prices) at your disposal, the timing of the detonations and the fact that each area has varying strengths.
The first level gently introduces you to the key elements. Faced with a small, compact building, and a generous amount of destructive material, you are free to place said material on any of the building’s pillars in order to unbalance and bring it down. Each bomb has a strength rating, as does each pillar, and some bombs can affect several pillars at once, so chain reactions are encouraged. This also introduces you to the quota rule: the minimum destruction rate for any building is 70 %, higher on later levels. Having detonations close to the windows will result in debris, causing the collateral damage score (second percentage value after completing a level) to climb. Those who have played the toppling board game Jenga will be at home here, since it’s all based on real world physics. Kick two supporting legs of a puppy, and it will inevitably fall down.
Initially starting simply, levels soon develop into sky-high, complex affairs where the difficulty climbs steeply. Of important note is the UFO level where a lack of Japanese language skills can make it nearly impossible. (All six engines of said UFO need to be simultaneously detonated, which can only be achieved by placing the biggest explosive between the two engine floors.) Apart from this one occasion though, the language barrier never causes real trouble. Available tools all have graphic icons and graphs explaining their traits, along with each bomb having preview images overlayed on the building, thus ensuring you’re never left wondering what to use or what to do.
The feeling of complete power and control, and the yearning to better yourself in the face of a motionless and silent foe, is tremendous. Players will regularly return to free mode in order to find new ways of unmaking what man has made. Much satisfaction is to be had from taking-out ten stories of steel and stone with only the bare minimum of resources. Timing and length of the fuses are also important, where varying when each one detonates can dramatically affect what happens.
For those who grow tired of the sedate nature of viewing the well-crafted buildings and setting bombs in story mode, there is also an arcade-style mini-games section. Unlocked early, it gives you hands-on control of the action via long-range cannon, military tank and attack chopper. All of which are used to obliterate a variety of inner city buildings within a time limit. Added to this roster of modes is a strange “Talk Mode” with the goal of accumulating cash and conversing with co-workers. This is best ignored, however since progress is nigh on impossible with the need to answer key questions in Japanese being the key to success. This is of no major concern though, since it contains no new levels and there is still plenty else to sink one’s teeth into, topped off with some excellent cut scenes at an insanity level to rival that of Bangai-O (easily skipped with Start). Whilst the polygon clipping on show is unparalleled, it actually adds to the game’s charms, enhancing the overall comic look of the game.
Once the pleasantly diverting story mode has been completed, the game really comes into its own, with over a dozen further levels all simultaneously unlocked for you to free-style in. Here it becomes more a cross between fireworks and dominos, with you entirely in the driving seat. There is tremendous innate joy to be had from simply setting up visually impressive chains of destruction and simply playing around with the finely tuned physics engine in place. Should structures perform a Mexican wave before their demise, or should a thirty-story behemoth be made to fall on its side fully intact? With everything unlocked, the pressure isn’t so much on clearance or success anymore, rather on maximum effect with minimum effort and hedonistic playing.
This leads on to a negative point that, had it been corrected, could have greatly elevated the game. With the exception of the arcade-style mini-games, there are no high score tables. Whilst seemingly a small oversight, the lack of one means there is little incentive to go back and achieve perfect destruction percentages, having also to rely on memory to remember the later levels that have been completed. Also noticeable is that the later levels are far too easy, lacking the nail-biting tension of the levels that had timers or collateral damage limitations.
Another design oversight is the inability to create your own structures. Whilst there is an ample amount on offer, each with unique designs and specialist traits, the ability to create your own bizarre high-rise buildings destined for destruction is sorely missed. The possibility of sharing these designs amongst friends, along with the addition of score tables, would have been the polish on an already enjoyable game, helping it to be a genuine contender against other, more successful DC games. Why such options are missing is baffling.
At the end of the day, you’re left with a finely crafted and fun dominos simulator, albeit without the ability to actually set up your own domino patterns. The physics in place feel just right, and buildings will fall just as you think they should . While gameplay is tremendous fun, overall enjoyment is dependant mainly on how much a player is willing to put into it, with later levels challenge is mostly void with the ability to simply drop massive bombs everywhere, so it comes down to playing with the intention of amusing oneself with complex and fancy demolition patterns.
Great fun and wonderfully freestyle in nature, it is missing a few important elements that could have made it un-miss-able.
Text by: John Szczepaniak